Picnic Paradise - Chris Newton has some wonderful National Trust sites in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 09:31 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

Break out the picnic....

Break out the picnic....

Want to find that perfect place for a picnic? Well, Chris Newton has some wonderful National Trust sites to tell us about which should really hit the spot...

Want to find that perfect place for a picnic? Well, Chris Newton has some wonderful National Trust sites to tell us about which should really hit the spot...

The picnic season is upon us, and considering how rich our county is in spectacular rural scenery, it ought to be a simple matter to find somewhere to break out the ham rolls and ginger beer in comfort. The reality is different, of course. It's all too easy to waste the best hours of the day driving up and down endless rural byways in search of a quiet corner which combines a comfortable stretch of nettle-free greensward with a nice view.

The National Trust owns and manages much of Dorset's finest countryside, from the ancient hillforts in the north and west of the county to Brownsea Island and the Jurassic Coast. The sites offer everything the picnicker could want, from away-from-it-all seclusion to cafs and toilets, and from ancient ruins to swimming and pond-dipping. Here is our pick of National Trust picnic spots in and around the county this summer.

Look down on the world from Golden Cap

Set out your picnic on the top of Golden Cap and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you are the highest picnicker anywhere on the south coast of England. The Cap's highest point is 188 metres (616 feet) above sea level, and it gives an unrivalled view across Lyme Bay and towards the Isle of Portland.

There's plenty to explore. The estate's secret valleys and rolling hills are served by more than 20 miles of footpaths and bridleways, all rich in wildlife. The cliffs are famous for their fossils, but do explore them with care, since 188 metres is a long way to fall. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/goldencap

Brownsea Island - pick your own scenery

Brownsea Island might have been designed for picnickers. It's hard to think of anywhere else that offers such a rich variety of settings within a small area, from pools and reedbeds to meadows, oak and pine woods and ancient heath. Each bend in the path offers a fresh vista onto a different natural landscape.

Your only problem will be choosing a spot. Horse Field and Church Field offer space for children to run around and let off steam, while the cliff points offer more seclusion. The beaches at Maryland and South Shore are ideal for families. The tranquil Lily Pond, in the middle of the island, is a great place to watch waterside life.

The island has a National Trust shop and a caf, which between them offer maps and trail guides and a range of sandwiches, baguettes, fruit and drinks (pre-booked picnics on request for groups). Brownsea can be reached only by boat from the mainland - there are regular ferries from Poole Quay, Sandbanks, Bournemouth Pier and Swanage. For information call (01202 707744 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea

Spoilt for choice at Corfe

Corfe Castle is one of Dorset's most enduring images. You're welcome to picnic on the grass among the thousand-year-old ruins. If you prefer a more open setting, strike out for East Hill, which commands superb views north-east over the coast to Brownsea and Poole Harbour, or West Hill, which gives equally fine views of the Jurassic Coast and the Channel. Corfe Common, to the south of the castle, is a great place for children, with plenty of room to play - and if you have little ones, you can always opt for the village's play park and picnic area. There are plenty of shops in the village where you can buy your food and drink. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfecastle

Sun, sea and sandwiches at Studland

Studland's glorious golden beach is one of the finest in the country and it's perfect for picnickers. Stroll along the three miles of beach and dunes until you find a spot you like, then spend the day in the sun while the more active members of the family go swimming or explore the dunes and heathland for rare wildlife. No worries if you drop in unprepared for your picnic - there's a NT shop and caf at Knoll Beach which supplies everything you need for your day out, from buckets and spades to wetsuits and sandwiches. In spring and summer it's open from 9.30am daily.

In high summer the car parks can get very full, so don't leave your arrival too late. Knoll Beach is the Trust's only nudist beach. Dogs must be on leads at all times, and no dogs at all are allowed on Knoll or Middle Beach from 1 July - 7 September. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/studland

Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock

The biggest risk of visiting Hive Beach Caf at Burton Bradstock, towards the western end of the Chesil Bank, is that you'll be so tempted by the menu you'll abandon your plans for a picnic and eat 'in' instead. The caf's ethically caught seafood and other locally produced food, from wine, bread and biscuits to Dorset Blue Vinny, have just won Coast magazine's 2009 Award for Best Coastal Caf, Pub or Restaurant (see www.hivebeachcafe.co.uk).

If you buy your picnic here and take it out on to the cliffs you can enjoy it in front of the spectacular panorama of Lyme Bay and the Jurassic Coast, then explore the cliffs for wild flowers and butterflies, or take a look at the remains of the defences used in WWII. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/burtonbradstock

Take a picnic by the Stour

White Mill, at Shapwick, near Sturminster Marshall on the Kingston Lacy estate, enjoys a peaceful rural setting beside the River Stour, which makes it the ideal spot for a picnic on a summer's day. The corn mill here dates back to 1776, though a mill may have been here for centuries before that - the site is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The mill was extensively repaired in 1994, retaining the original elm and applewood machinery, though this is now too fragile to be used. At weekends between 12 noon and 5pm you can join a guided tour of the mill. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingstonlacy


Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June

Discover some of Dorset's finest landscapes with the

National Trust experts who care for them during the charity's weekend-long festival of walking. Events range from a historical stroll around Brownsea Island to wildlife forays in the woodland of the Stourhead estate. Either join one of the charity's guided walks, or explore on your own using a downloadable route

map at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walkwessex.

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